From March 2-17, 2015, 7th grade Science teacher, Ms. Erin MacNabb, explored Antarctica as part of the One Ocean Expeditions and Marathon Travel and Tours. (Spoiler alert: Ms. MacNabb was the second fastest female racer and 10th overall out of 136 finishers!) She wrote this blog to share her new knowledge and experiences with her students, colleagues, friends, and family (read some of their inquisitive questions below).
Click here to scroll to the bottom. Or, start here at the beginning of her adventure!
March 2, 2015 (The Penguins await…..)
As I sit enjoying the comforts of DFW terminal D, I have nothing but pure joy and excitement as I look forward to the experience that awaits me. Many may ask the question, “Why?” and my response would be “Why Not?” But to understand my answer, one must unpackage what is beneath it.
Why not – travel to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language?
Why not – go alone; without knowing one other person?
Why not – immerse yourself in a culture that is different from your own?
Why not – spend 10 days on a boat?
Why not – embrace the cold weather?
Why not – venture to a place in the world few get to see with their own eyes?
Why not – study the subject you teach in person; the glaciers, the environment, the weather, the wildlife, and the history of the continent?
Why not – run 26.2 miles through mud, gravel, ice, and snow?
Why not – experience a opportunity of a lifetime?
In life you have all sorts of choices to make… I choose to experience all I can in this world and live with the attitude of “why not”. If a situation is uncomfortable, tackle it. You will become a better and stronger person from it. Here is to all of us becoming better, stronger people!
March 3, 2015 (11:42 am)
Greetings Earthlings! I survived the ten hour overnight flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was a pleasant flight WITHOUT WiFi 🙂 I do have to say that sometimes it is nice to completely disconnect from the world. I managed to write in my paper journal for a while and slept most of the rest of the flight. I spotted a gentleman in an Ironman hat and figured he was going the same place as me so I introduced myself. His name is David and he is a Trauma Surgeon at Mass General Hospital. I am attaching the article below that was written about him. Many of you may remember hearing about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. David ran the Boston Marathon that year and finished about an hour before the bombs went off. He immediately went to the hospital where he worked and began caring for those injured in the bombings. What a wonderful example of selflessness and caring for others. I am honored to have met him.
I located a few others traveling with the group and we proceeded through customs together, boarded the bus, and now I have safely arrived at my hotel for the next three days! My roommates name is Lisa and we are getting along great! She is a graduate student at The Wharton School in Pennsylvania.
March 3, 2015 (11:44 p.m.)
I can not wait to catch some sleep tonight. What a wonderful first day! I joined five others for lunch today at a local restaurant about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. I had not idea what the menu said but I did recognize one word, Pollo, so I ordered it. It ended up being Empanadas and was most delicious! We made our way back to the hotel and everyone liked to comment on the fact that I wore my backpack around town in front of me (instead of on my back) to be sure nothing was stolen out of it. (We were warned ahead of time of professional pick pocketers around town.) Once back at the hotel about 40 of us went out for a light training run around the city. We started in a very wealthy part of town but turned around in a very poverty stricken part of town. There were stray dogs everywhere. Never seen so many and it was hard because I wanted to take them all home.
All 220 people traveling together gathered for a banquet dinner reception tonight. What a fun time getting to know everyone. Muhit (pictured below) is on my boat, the Vavilov and is originally from Bangladesh. He is hysterical, does not like snakes, and helped me exchange my money 🙂
I also met another fellow science teacher, Pat Mosley (pictured below). Pat and I had a great time talking about our classrooms and schools and what we are doing with our students now and when we get back. Pat is also an Ironman so I guess it must be a “science teacher thing” 🙂
Here is the link on science teacher, Pat Mosley from Savage, Minnesota….
March 4, 2015 (9:00 pm)
What a jam packed day I had!! I began with a bus tour of Buenos Aires. We drove around and stopped in a few places to get out and walk around. The city of Buenos Aires is composed of 48 neighborhoods. Today, we were about to see 9 of them. The students are just starting their school year this week. Their summer break runs from Decemeber 15 – March 1. This is because of the flipped seasons.
Our first stop was at the largest cemetary in the city. It was like a city of “tomb houses”. There were street signs in the cemetery showing different “tomb rows”. The cheapest tomb is $40,000 US dollars!! The famous Evita was once laid to rest here. (Click photos to enlarge)
Our next stop was to the Presidential District. The current president is a female. The last president died in 2010, and his wife took over the presidency since then. The President lives about an hour away and helicopters in to work each day. The building below is the Presidential Building.
This is an area of many, many protests and police presence iseverywhere! Pictured below is a street blocked by current protesters and a stationary protest that has been there for 6 years! I don’t know what they were protesting 🙂
Our next stop took us to a Cathedral in the Presidential District. The architecture reminds me of the Cathedral we will visit on the seventh grade trip 🙂
There are dog walkers everywhere! The city has a limit of 8 dogs per walker but some do not listen and can have up to 20!!
A quick run along the river wrapped up my day and then dinner with friends!
Tomorrow I am taking a ferry across the river (35 mile wide river) to the country of Uruguay for the day. Until next time…..
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March 5, 2015 (6:37 p.m.)
I just returned from spending the day across the river in Uruguay!
Why? Why not? 🙂 I went with 8 other folks from the tour group. Upon looking at a map of South America, it appears that it is bladder end by the Atlantic Ocean. However, after further investigation, it is the end of the Rio de la Plata flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. This creates an Estuary; transitioning from freshwater to salt water.
The town of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay is a very old town founded in the late 1500s. The culture was fantastic and it had a much nicer flair than Buenos Aires. We mingled around town, dipped our toes in Rio de la Plata, had authentic food, ran a 1.5K in Uruguay, and crossed the river back and forth on the Buquebus Rápido. It was an hour Wachowski direction to cross the river. Click on the images below to enlarge.
Tomorrow is when the studies begin. I have to be in the lobby at 3 a.m. to catch the first flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. I hop on the boat and set sail for Antarctica tomorrow evening. From here on out, there will not be pictures until I return as there is no internet to post pictures on the boat. Dr. Roemer (TVS Director of Global Initiatives) will help with keeping the text blog updated when I can get a message out.
Happy Feet is waiting for me!
March 7, 2015 (Headed to Antarctica)
I have successfully made it almost 24 hours on the boat without getting sick! We boarded and left the port of Ushuaia around 5 pm yesterday evening. Lots to go over once on board. We had our mandatory safety briefing and emergency drill with those ‘oh so fashionable life vests.’
My bags are unpacked in my mini cabin and I am ready for the next 10 days. Lisa and I are roommates again on the boat on the third floor (there are six total levels on the boat.) There are two bunks built into the wall, one sink, a desk, and a small couch. Wait until I show you pictures! It sounds like the room is huge but is only about 5 feet wide and 8 feet deep. Space is used to the maximum extent! Meals on board the boat are served in the dining hall and there is enough room for everyone to eat together. Everyone gets bread, soup, and salad and then you have a choice of three main courses, and dessert. A bunch of us stayed up and chatted for a while but called it a night early as many only got a few hours of sleep the night before due to catching an early morning flight ( we had to leave the hotel at 3 am to make it to the airport)
I was up with the beautiful sunrise this morning around 6 am. The colors in the sky were just breathtaking. A quick change and down to the first floor to the gym I went. The gym is a small room about 12 x 12 with a treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine, and some free weights. If you have never run on a treadmill on a moving ship, it is quite the experience. In order to have a frame of reference, I watched the swinging jump ropes to have an idea as to whether I would be running up hill or downhill as the treadmill moves with the boat. Breakfast was a buffet style and some mingling time with the rest of the boat.
The first presentation I went to this morning was called the Birds of the Southern Ocean. Derek is a naturalist on board and an expert in birds all over the world. The main family of birds we will see in Antarctica are the Albatross. Of the 21 different species of Albatross, 19 of them are threatened. Some are very hard to identify but we started a running list in the community part of the ship. The Albatross is threaten due to multiple factors including: oil spills, climate change, swallowing plastic, fishing nets (they get caught in it and drug underwater by the boat and drowning. The Albatross can go many years without ever landing on land or water. Yes, they fly the whole time. This is due to an adaptation that their heart rate remains the same no matter whether they are flying or chilling on land. Compared to a human, that would be like us always having the same heart rate no matter if we were sleeping, sitting in class, walking the hallways, and playing in a soccer game. We would never get tired 🙂 Unfortunately that is not the case for humans 🙂
My afternoon today will consist of a presentation on Whales of the Antarctic and The Antarctic Treaty.
We will not be getting off the boat until possibly tomorrow as we are currently crossing the Drake Passage. We have lucked out so far that the seas are relatively calm as this passage can be one of the most deadly in the world. The wind blows ALL the time and the area between South America/Africa/Australian and Antarctica has the longest fetch in the world. Fetch is the distance that air can move in the atmosphere before it hits land. Once it hits land, the wind slows and is deflected in another direction. However, in the Southern Ocean, air can move all the way around world and NEVER hit land. Therefore, the air transfers the energy to the water creating much larger waves than in other oceans.
March 12, 2015
My goodness is this a busy ship!! We are always going, going from one activity to the next. I woke up a little earlier today to try to catch up on the blog.
Monday – We had our first chance to get off the boat and visit land. We visited Half Moon Island and a colony of Chin-Strap penguins. Chin- straps are very easy to identify as they are the only penguin with a white face and the obviously black line (“strap”) that goes around their chin. Much of the colony was molting. This is a large energy consuming process and they must remain still and limit their water exposure for 30-40 days. There is a lone Macaroni Penguin (like Lovelace in Happy Feet) that makes its home with this colony. No one knows why he lives with the Chin-Straps but the expedition teams to the island affectionately call him Kevin or Kenneth. Along our hike to the colony we were able to see the Gentoo Penguins and many male fur seals. The fur seals are very aggressive and will approach you if you are not paying attention. The young males are practicing their dominance for the future. This creates many play fights and is very amusing to watch.
The evening lectures included information about specific penguins and glacier ice. So much information and yes, I do take notes in the classes.
Monday evening was spent getting ready for the Marathon the next day. I was number 133. Water, Gatorade, and food had to be carefully planned as you could not bring any wrappers or plastic onto King George Island.
Tuesday morning wake up call was bright and early as we attempted to dress appropriately for the zodiac ride to King George Island. The wind speed was 35 knots and usually the expedition team will cancel all zodiac excursions at 30 knots….. But this is no normal expedition. The waves were huge but our crew managed to get us ashore safely. The temperatures hovered right around 0*C but the wind was picking up even more which made the wind chill feel below zero. The course had to change slightly as our original course out to the Uruguay base was so muddle the ATV vehicles were getting stuck in the mud. Instead, we ran through the Chile and Russian bases out to the China Base and back six times. This was a blessing as it allowed us to see and cheer for our boatmates many times. I felt great the entire run and finished in 4:06:49. This was a great time as they say you typically run about 45 minutes slower in Antarctica due to the cold, mud, and hilly terrain. My time was good enough for second place female overall! 🙂 Contrary to most races when the temperatures get warmer throughout the day, the temperature continued to drop throughout the day. I took off my gloves after one loop of the course and was fine until the very last lap when I wished I had my gloves as the temperatures continued to drop.
Although we were encouraged to immediately return to the ship to get warm, I was allowed to stay and cheer on some of my new friends as they finished.
Back to the boat for a relaxing evening, chill time, and preparations for the next day.
Wednesday – This morning we prepared for our visit to a colony of Gentoo penguins. A quick zodiac ride to the island followed by about 3 hours to visit with the molting penguins. These penguins were much more curious than the Chin-Strap penguins and came much closer to us. Along the shore line we were also greeted by a couple fur seals and a half dozen Weddell Seals. These seals look like slugs or inch worms as their front flippers are so short, they can not push themselves up to move. They have quite a bit more blubber than the fur seal making them much slower and less aggressive.
Upon return to the Vavilov, we quickly changed and headed over to the sister ship Ioffe. The Ioffe housed another 100 runners/expedition team and we headed to a BBQ on their deck. Awards were presented after and I was recognized as the second place female out of all runners. We returned to the Vavilov for a relaxing evening together.
Thursday holds an expedition to Danco Island and a hike to the top for a spectacular view. Currently the weather is too rough for kayaking but my group is up next so hopefully we will make it out to kayak this afternoon!
Until next time……
March 15, 2015 entries
As my journey is nearing its end, I must reflect back on the last few days on the White Continent.
Thursday (March 12)- Flexability is the name of the game when it comes to excursions in the Antarctic. Our excursions this morning were canceled due to high winds and waves. Instead, we heard about Sophie and Ewie’s (adventure staff) two week unsupported kayaking adventure on the Antarctic Peninsula. Anything they needed they carried on themselves or in the kayak. Each night they had to find a safe place on the ice to camp. Following that presentation, I saw the film, Chasing Ice. Cameras have been set up in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Iceland to chart glacial changes over time.
The afternoon looked more promising for a kayak adventure, so we suited up in our dry suits and lifejackets, boarded the zodiac and headed toward our drop in point. We had three get in their kayaks before the wind kicked up again and set my roommate, Lisa into the icy waters. The guides made the call to bag kayaking again today as it posed more danger than not. Instead, all the kayakers were dropped off for a hike up a small island to a wonderful peak overlooking the glaciers below. I managed to snap my usual handstand photo at the top of mountains throughout the world. On my venture down the hike, were were greated by many, smelly, Gentoo Penguins. They are so interesting to watch. I could sit all day and watch their interactions with each other.
Friday (the 13th)- The expedition leader, Cheryl, decided on a very early morning Friday as the weather was going to be beautiful and we have much to see before we depart for the Drake Passage later in the evening. My group of kayakers suited up for our venture and headed out early. We paddled for a good two hours around the Harbor of the Argentine Brown base. This is an abandoned research station as it was burnt down by the doctor stationed their in order to be rescued quicker. We paddled among three other 60 ft boats sailing in Antarctica by themselves. We met one young man from Palestine. It had taken him 18 days to cross the Drake Passage compared to our 2 days in a larger vessel. We spotted a Leopard Seal and a Humpback Whale while paddling but also just enjoyed the pristine beauty of an area of the world relatively untouched. Before leaving Paradise Harbor, we jumped into the water on purpose for our plunge. However, many were upset that we weren’t allowed ta ke our kayak dry suits off so we talked with the expedition leader and we would be allowed to jump in following our evening excursion.
We made great time to Willhemina Bay were we were going to be whale watching from the zodiacs. The whales were feeding in full force. It was just mesmerizing to watch. At some points I had to consciously put my camera down to just enjoy the beauty of what was happening. We got to experience bubble feeding. The expedition leaders were super excited because they do not see bubble feeding often. A group of whales circle under water and release bubbles, this causes the krill to become trapped in that area. Meanwhile, one of the remaining whales dives down and opens his/her mouth and grabs the krill trapped in the bubbles. Each humpback whale can consume 22,000 Liters of water and krill at a time. The water is filtered back out through the comb/straw like teeth and the remaining krill is swallowed. The whales are consuming as much food as possible as they will start migrating north in about three weeks. They do not eat when they migrate north but rather breed in warmer waters and then return with their young the following summer. Before we turned in for the evening, we had three curious fur seals approach our zodiac and they then proceeded to show off for us.
A quick change into swim attire on the boat and back to the zodiac we went to complete our “real polar plunge”. It was fantastic and not as cold as I was expecting (only 0.6* Celsius). Special thanks to Cheryl and One Oceans Expeditions for making this to happen.
Saturday (March 14)- I think I slept more on this day than the entire trip. Crossing the Drake Passage was a lot more rough this time and I felt the rocking of the boat. It made me dizzy and a bit nauseous so I would get up and go to the educational presentations and then rest in my cabin…. Then repeat.
Derek gave a talk on the Unsung Hero of the Antarctic: Krill. Theresa gave a presentation on Pinnipeds (Seals). Both presented very interesting information that I will share with you upon my return.
Sunday (March 15)- I am feeling much better today as the seas have calmed down a bit. We had to settle our accounts and gather our legal documents (passports, visa tax, and official Antarctica tourist forms. We then saw a short film on a voyage around Cape Horne against the current. It was filmed in the 1920s and then narrated in the 1980s. Very interesting everything that was done prior to all the technology we have now.
We dock back at Ushuaia, Argentina tomorrow morning and go our separate ways back to the reality of the world. Looking forward to seeing you all when I return on Wednesday, 3/18!